<![CDATA[NBC 7 San Diego - Top Stories]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/top-stories http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/KNSD+RSS+Feed+logo+blue.png NBC 7 San Diego http://www.nbcsandiego.com en-us Fri, 19 Dec 2014 18:27:27 -0800 Fri, 19 Dec 2014 18:27:27 -0800 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Rollover Kills 3 Headed to Funeral]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 17:56:24 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/ROLLOVER_121914_1239_1_1200x675_375195715768.jpg

An SUV full of people on their way to a funeral rolled over on Interstate 15 Friday, leaving three dead and another three injured.

A 2001 Ford Expedition was headed south on I-15 when it flipped into the northbound lanes near Gopher Canyon Road, causing traffic to be blocked in the left lanes of both sides of the freeway and killing three people inside.

From the NBC 7 News chopper, suitcases were seen strewn about among the debris. A survivor of the crash told CHP the group was traveling to Mexico to board a plane for a funeral.

Two of the deceased were women: a 22-year-old from Azusa, Calif. and a 21-year-old from Los Angeles. CHP said it does not appear either were wearing seat belts.

The female driver was wearing a seat belt, but was also killed.

A 2-year-old restrained in a car seat survived, as well as two adults that sustained non-life threatening injuries, accoring to CHP.

Deputies happened to be driving behind the vehicle when they said the tread on the left rear tire appeared to separate, causing the driver to lose control. The CHP said the tread on all four tires looked different.

Authorities will conduct a full mechanical inspection of the SUV, paying close attention to the tires.

CHP Officer Jim Bettencourt said it's important to check the safety of your vehicle often, especially before a long trip.

"Number one: have a plan. Be prepared when you go out there," Bettencourt said. "Make sure that you take a look at your vehicle, you inspect it, you check your wipers, you check the tire pressure, you make sure your vehicle's in good working order before you travel on that long trip."

This is a developing story. Check back here for updates.

Editors note: A previous version of this story said the ages of the deceased women were 11 and 12 years old. We regret the error.

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<![CDATA[Doctor Still Practicing Despite Order Prohibiting It]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 16:55:23 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/william+joseph+watson.JPG

Days before he reports to prison for violating federal drug laws, an NBC 7 undercover investigation revealed a local doctor is still seeing patients despite a state order prohibiting him from doing so.

William Joseph Watson, 59, who was an osteopathic physician in Del Mar, was sentenced earlier this month in federal court. He pleaded guilty in August to one count of conspiracy to distribute and dispense oxycodone without a legitimate medical purpose.

Click here to see more on Watson’s sentencing.

Watson is scheduled to report to federal prison on Jan. 8 and is expected to spend five years in custody for selling prescriptions for powerful narcotics to patients who had no medical need for those drugs.

According to a “cease and desist” order from the Osteopathic Medical Board of California, Watson is also prohibited from seeing any patients while he's free on bond awaiting his prison sentence.

But an NBC 7 Investigates producer called Watson to schedule an appointment with him for her sore toe. The appointment was scheduled for Dec. 12. The producer showed up and so did Watson.

Watson reviewed a 10-page new patient form with the producer, asking questions about prior medical problems, dietary behaviors and medication history. After completely reviewing the new patient form, Watson treated the producer’s sore toe.

“This regulatory body said 'halt,’ you've done something wrong, you violated those conditions, stop,” Ted Mazer, an expert in doctor licensing and discipline, said. “By ignoring that, the physician is sanctionable, probably could lose his license permanently and is committing a crime under California statute and is putting 'you,' the patient, at risk.”

Mazer serves on the executive committee of the California Medical Association.

He said Watson clearly violated the board's order, by advertising his services online as a D.O., or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine.

Mazer said Watson also violated the board’s order by offering medical advice and treatment as well as charging for office visits.

Watson charged the NBC 7 Investigates producer $225 for the initial visit and recommended she return at least three more times.

During the visit with Watson, the doctor told the producer he is rebuilding his practice and treats more than ten patients a week.

When NBC 7 Investigates reporter Mari Payton asked Watson if he was still seeing patients after the board ordered him not to, Watson said he sees “people” not “patients.”

In court earlier this month, Watson admitted making “serious mistakes” and said he accepts full responsibility for wrongly prescribing thousands of powerful narcotics, including oxycodone, to patients without performing a proper physical exam and property assessing their need for the addictive painkillers.

In his plea deal, Watson admitted to giving painkiller prescriptions to addicts and dealers, who would use the drugs themselves or sell them on the street.

In return, those “patients” gave Watson thousands of dollars in cash and luxury gifts, including designer handbags, vintage wines and jewelry, according to DEA agents. Documents obtained by NBC 7 Investigates reveal Watson charged about $170 for a prescription for a month’s supply of highly-addictive painkillers.

DEA investigators said some of those patients re-sold the prescription narcotics on the street, or exchanged them for heroin.

The doctor’s actions contributed to the overdose death of a young patient, said prosecutor Sheppard, who told the judge that “40 percent of the pills (that Watson) peddled were not for medical purposes… He did this for money, flat out, and he ruined lives.”

Watson maintains the services he provides helps patients and told NBC 7 Investigates he "doesn't think" he needs to serve time in prison.

“I see people that want to be seen that I can help,” Watson said. “I don't see patients, I see people that want to be helped with what I do. I am an amazing doctor. I have taken care of so many.”

The Osteopathic Medical Board of California confirmed to NBC 7 Investigates Watson is violating state regulations by treating patients.

A board spokesman also told us the agency is preparing another accusation against Watson to "revoke" his license.

As a result of this NBC 7 Investigates story, the board is updating its license verification system to make it easier for consumers to check on their doctors.

<![CDATA[5 Key Points From Obama's Year-End Presser]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 16:49:45 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP684603546762.jpg

President Obama said Sony Pictures Entertainment had made a mistake pulling the movie “The Interview," and defended normalizing relations with Cuba in his last press conference of the year before heading to Hawaii for vacation.

“We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States,” he said of the cyber attack during which embarrassing emails were made public.

Here are the main topics that he addressed during the exchange with the press, during which he only called on female reporters.

North Korea

On the day that the FBI identified North Korea as the source of the cyber-attacks on Sony, Obama refused to reveal what the U.S. response would be other than to say it would be proportional and in a place and time of U.S. choosing.

He said that although he sympathized with Sony, he wished its executives had talked to him before making the decision on “The Interview.”

“We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States,” he said.

If Sony could be intimidated over the release of a satirical movie, imagine what might happen if the issue were a documentary or a news report, he said. Even worse, imagine if producers and other start engaging in self-censorship, he said.

"That's not what America's about," he said.


Obama said he shared worries that Cuba would fail to address human right or move toward democracy.

“This is still a regime that oppresses its people,” he said.

But he said he believed normalizing relations, announced this week by his administration, would give the United States more leverage over Cuba. Visiting Americans and better access to telecommunications and the Internet will chip away at what he called a hermetically sealed society and offer the best prospect for self determination, he said.

“Change is going to come to Cuba,” he said. “It has to.”

The country’s economy does not work and it can no longer rely on subsidies from allies such as Venezuela.

He recounted that in his conversation with Cuba President Raul Castro, after Obama had apologized for his 15-minute opening, Castro told him that he was a young man and still had time to break Fidel Castro’s record for speaking for seven hours straight.

State of Race Relations

Black Americans like the rest of Americans are better off than when he took office, Obama said, though the income and wealth gap between black and white America remained.

He said that educational changes his administration has initiated have meant higher high school graduation rates and record numbers of people attending college.

Race relations are now "colored" by police shootings in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City, and the perception that law enforcement was not fair, he said.

He said a task force he created would return with practical changes that could be implemented.

“People are basically good and have good intentions,” he said.

Systems and institutions don’t always work as well as they should and can be fixed, he said.

Dealing With Congress

Obama said he would continue to take unilateral actions on issues important to the American people if Congress failed to act.

Immigration was the classic example, he said. He acted only after the House failed to move on a comprehensive bill passed by the Senate.

If Republicans were angered by his executive actions, he said, “There is a very simple solution: Pass bills.”

He urged Republicans to work with him because both sides would have to compromise.

Obama again said that the Keystone XL pipeline would not have much effect on gas prices in the United States, but instead would benefit the Canadian oil industry. The pipeline would bring oil from the tar sands of Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico, where it would enter the world oil market.

He said he hoped to work with Republicans on fairness in the tax system, particularly involving corporations. Some are paying taxes at a rate of 35 percent, others of which are paying nothing.


Obama touted America's economic gains and said the country could enter the new year confident that the United States was making strides.

This year was the strongest for job growth since the 1990s; over a 57-month period, businesses had created nearly 11 million new jobs, he said. About 10 million Americans have gained health insurance in the past year. Deficits has been cut by about two-thirds since he took office.

"America's resurgence is real," he said.

Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Motel Shooting Suspect, Brother Arrested ]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 16:13:12 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/el+cajon+quality+inn.JPG

The man who wore a “Joker” mask to a motel armed robbery and shot a clerk has been arrested, El Cajon police announced Friday.

Charles Douglas Winzer, 24, barged into the Quality Inn and Suites on El Cajon Boulevard on Tuesday armed with a shotgun, according to police.

He demanded money from the 31-year-old clerk, but when the employee tried to run away, detectives say Winzer shot him in the lower back. The victim was taken to the hospital for non-life threatening injuries.

Empty-handed, Winzer ran to the parking lot, where his brother Christopher James Winzer, 22, was waiting in a getaway truck, the ECPD says.

The police search for the suspects prompted the Grossmont High School administration to lock down the school Tuesday afternoon. However, officers could not find the would-be robber responsible for the shooting.

Investigators turned to witnesses and surveillance video to find their suspects. They soon learned a red Chevy pickup was used as the getaway vehicle.

The truck was discovered Wednesday at the Villa Embasadora Hotel in El Cajon, which led officers to the man who matched descriptions of the suspect. Charles Winzer was arrested on suspicion of narcotics offenses and was taken to the ECPD.

Detectives later booked him into jail on attempted murder, robbery and assault with a deadly weapon charges, stemming from the motel hold-up.

Christopher Winzer was arrested Thursday on suspicion of robbery and accessory to a felony.

Investigators say the weapon used in the robbery has been recovered and there are no outstanding suspects.

Photo Credit: NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[$331M Worth of Cocaine Seized by Navy, Coast Guard]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 18:06:00 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Navy+cocaine+seizure.jpg

About $331 million worth of cocaine was seized by the U.S. Coast Guard and Navy during patrols from September to this month.

Of that, more than 8.5 tons of cocaine were offloaded Friday from the San Diego-based Navy ship the USS Vandergrift. The drugs were then turned over to federal officials as evidence for the prosecution in the case.

The contraband was intercepted by U.S. Coast Guard teams and U.S. Navy ships patrolling in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Central and South America, according to the Coast Guard.

The Vandergrift and its Coast Guard law enforcement counterpart intercepted six loads from suspicious vessels or loads drifting at sea, officials said.

The busts were part of an ongoing effort, called Operation Martillo, involving international law enforcement and U.S. military that targets illicit drug trafficking in the waters off Central America.

Of the Vandergrift’s involvement in the bust, Cmdr. Kevin Ralston said: “USS Vandergrift’s superior performance and exceptional operational success during this seven-month deployment were nothing short of outstanding."

Photo Credit: U.S. Coast Guard District 11 PAD]]>
<![CDATA[Sexually Violent Predator Will Move Into Jacumba Home]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 13:52:27 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/4PW_VO_SVP_SNAVELY_KNSD545K_1200x675_349625411549.jpg

A judge has given the green light on the proposed placement of a sexually violent predator into a Jacumba home.

No community members showed up to give their opinion at Friday morning's hearing at the Downtown San Diego courthouse where Judge Louis Hanoian said he didn't find any legal barrier against the placement of 49-year-old Gary Snavely.

The diagnosed pedophile will now move into 45612 Old Highway 80 under a conditional release by Feb. 20.

The home is about a mile away from Jacumba Elementary School. There are about 600 people living in the area, according to the 2010 census.

In total, ten letters opposing the placement were submitted, including one from San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob.

Judge Louis Hanoian said the decision was not made lightly. He said Snavely will be closely monitored and will get treatment. He doesn't believe Snavely is not a danger to society anymore.

The diagnosed pedophile was originally supposed to be placed in Borrego Springs by the Department of State Hospitals, but the landlord took back his offer to rent the property after finding out he would be renting to a sexually violent predator. The man currently renting was shocked to find about the proposed placement.

In 1987, Snavely was convicted of molesting two young girls in Orange County. The molestations included fondling and oral copulation. He served three years in prison. He was later arrested for a patrol violation.

After his release, he was convicted of failing to register as a sex offender in San Diego in 1996, for which he served 16 months.

Two years later, the District Attorney's Office won a petition to civilly commit Snavely to the state hospital as a sexually violent predator.

A judge granted Snavely’s petition for conditional release back in August.

<![CDATA[Taking the Stress Out of TSA Security]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 16:38:56 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/TRAVEL_clip_1219_1200x675_375171139608.jpg

The San Diego Airport expects some 55,000 travelers every day from now until New Years. Being prepared, they said, will make the experience much less stressful.

The best ways to speed up the process are to identify parking ahead of time and be prepared for security checks, said Rebecca Bloomfield, spokesperson for the San Diego Airport.

"Remember the '3-1-1 rule,' which is three ounces of liquid, one quart bag, one per passenger," Bloomfield said. "Have that out, take your jacket off, take your shoes off and just be ready to go through that checkpoint."

For parking, she said, there are several on-airport parking lots, including one on the north side at Washington Street and Pacific Coast Highway that is offering $2-off per day coupons right now.

Also, Terminal 2 has a new dual-level roadway separating drop-off and pick-up passengers for less congestion at the curb.

There is an expedited security pre-check option available for eligible passengers that allows some travelers to skip to shoe and jacket removal.

Military, seniors and children under 12-years-old can apply for this service, according to TSA spokesman Nico Melendez. Some passengers in the standard lanes can also be pulled randomly for the quicker security checks. Eligibility requirements and application information are available on the TSA website.

Melendez said the TSA still uses body scanners, but the software has been updated for faster security scans.

"Now the image is one standard photo per passenger and it's visible right there at the security check point," he said.

The airport also has a lost and found that stores misplaced items for 30 to 45 days. Melendez said there is a link on their website or travelers can call about lost items.

As for items not allowed on board, put them in your check bag, Melendez said.

"Almost everything that we find at the security check point that's not allowed through the check point is allowed in checked bags, including guns," Melendez said.

More information on airport security, smoother boarding and expedited check-in is available on TSA's website, on Instagram @TSA or by using the My TSA smartphone app, which includes and interactive "Can I Bring" feature. For more, click here. For more on holiday air travel tips, click here.

<![CDATA[Vehicle Strikes Pedestrian in El Cajon]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 18:26:31 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/160*120/Generic-Police-lights.jpg

A pedestrian, possibly in a wheelchair, has been hit by a car in unincorporated El Cajon, according to California Highway Patrol.

The accident happened just after 5 p.m. Friday at the corner of East Bradley Avenue and North Magnolia Avenue. CHP said a Kia sedan hit the pedestrian.

The victim is unconscious. Details on the driver are still unclear.

CHP and fire rescue are on the scene.

This story is developing. Check back here for updates.

<![CDATA[Volunteer Balboa Park Centennial Planner Quits]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 17:49:04 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/balboa+park+lights+1201+4.JPG

The organizer of a grass roots weekend of events during next year’s Balboa Park centennial celebration has just pulled the plug on his efforts — blaming city bureaucracy.

Attorney David Lundin cited “recent arbitrary and capricious actions by staff” in a letter to volunteers, friends, the news media and city officials.

The centennial commemorates the 100th anniversary of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, which brought San Diego worldwide recognition.

Celebration planning got off to a false start, then regained some footing after San Diego's first official Centennial organizers spent millions of public dollars with nothing concrete to show.

Since then the city then stepped in with a modest program of events involving the park's museums and galleries.

Lundin’s group of volunteers formed to put on a weekend of historical-themed festivities in mid-September next year.

"It's 'turn the clock back,' it's period music, period costumes,” Lundin told NBC 7 in early November. “It reflects on 'How did the park get built in 1915? Why is it cool? And how can we preserve and maintain it to make it better over the next 100 years?'"

But Lundin now says city staff gave him snarls through red tape, imposed unreasonable requirements, and ran out the clock on his efforts to secure corporate funding in a timely fashion.

Carolyn Wormser, the city's special events director disagrees, saying he was unable to meet what's expected of everyone seeking use of municipal facilities.

"Mr. Lundin at times has wanted special treatment and waivers of fees,” Wormser said in an interview Friday. “And he has wanted space to store equipment and a lot of things that we just can't do with the use of public property and public access."

Responded Lundin: “The real question is why city and special events leadership never said ‘What can we do to help expedite this and make it successful?”

Wormser said she recognizes that first-time special event organizers face a learning curve they may not be fully prepared to undertake.

"Sometimes it's a challenge to do not only all that the city needs, but to find sponsors and funding sources and participants in the events,” she explained. “And all of those came together. And sadly, sometimes the city is blamed for that."

City Hall observers see the original Centennial planners as having undergone a similar experience.

"I think maybe what we've learned is that it's easier to get these things moving from inside city government,” said Andrew Keatts, who covers civic issues for the Voice of San Diego.

"The city seems to have succeeded, to put together some additional events and make some things happen,” Keatts pointed out. “But important to note — it's way scaled back from what the initial discussion was."

In all, the city expects to spend more than $33 million getting the park ready for the Centennial, most of that, on infrastructure and facility upgrades.

CalTrans has invested $38 million in further retrofits to the Cabrillo Bridge, leading into Balboa Park from the west.

Photo Credit: NBC 7
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<![CDATA[Local Couple Gets Engaged on "Ellen"]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 17:22:06 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/SD+Ellen+proposal.jpg

A San Diego couple has a wedding proposal they'll always remember after a Navy technician popped the question to his unsuspecting girlfriend during Friday's "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."

"I had an idea this was coming, but I had no idea when or how," the lucky bride-to-be Andrea Nguyen told NBC 7. "By far that exceeded my expectations."

Nguyen may have not known when, but her now-fiance Josh Swain knew it had to happen soon. Come Jan. 24, he will be stationed in Hawaii and then deploy from there.

"I was looking for an idea, I really didn't know what I was going to do," Swain said.

The opportunity came Monday after Nguyen called him excitedly about a chance encounter she had at the UTC mall. A producer for "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" approached her with a chance to win tickets to Ellen's "12 Days of Giveaways." Nguyen was on her way to the show after winning a game on the spot.

With only four days to set up the proposal, Swain quickly called the show's producers. By Tuesday night, he was given the green light.

The couple attended the show taping Thursday, and while Nyugen was ecstatic for the chance to meet and hug Ellen, the moment was about to get even better.

The talk show host called the couple up during the show, Swain got on one knee and asked the big question. His girlfriend of four years said yes.

"It still hasnt hit me," Nguyen told NBC 7.

"Words can't describe, we've been really blessed," Swain added."This year, I really didn't know what was going to happen with my orders, but things just started aligning."

The couple now plans to wed Jan. 2, just weeks before Swain is set to leave to Hawaii. They're planning on something small and local.

Ellen DeGeneres is definitely invited to the wedding, they added.

<![CDATA["I Can't Breathe" Trademarked?]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 17:20:21 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/180*120/460014244.jpg

A Waukegan woman has filed an application to trademark Eric Garner’s dying words, “I can’t breathe.”

Catherine Crump, 57, submitted her request to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Dec. 13 in hopes of registering the phrase for use on apparel such as “hoodies and t-shirts for men, women, boys, girls, and infants.”

In the application acquired by the Smoking Gun, Crump claims to have been using the term for merchandising since “at least” Aug. 18, one month after Garner’s fatal arrest.

The July video of a NYPD officer placing a chokehold on unarmed Garner for selling loose cigarettes went viral after the father of six was seen shoved to the ground pleading, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe” in his final moments of life.

When a grand jury decided not to indict the officer who killed him protesters erupted nationwide using, “I can’t breathe,” as their battle cry against police brutality.

Crump told the Smoking Gun she has “nothing to do with the Garner family,” and did not speak with them regarding her intentions to trademark the term.

<![CDATA[24 Arrested in MTS Trolley Sweep]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 13:46:04 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/trolleygeneric_trolley_generic.jpg

A multi-agency enforcement and probation compliance sweep led to 24 arrests Thursday at trolley stops in La Mesa, El Cajon and Santee.

Deputies and officers checked on 620 people and searched about 57 of them for possible probation violations between 2 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Three people were arrested for felonies and 21 for misdemeanors.

Many of the arrestees were realigned offenders. In 2011, A federal court ordered the State of California to reduce its overcrowded prisons. Non-violent criminals became the responsibility of local law enforcement rather than state agencies, so some offenders are now sent to county jails instead of prisons.

Following tips, deputies and investigators checked to see if the arrestees were linked to various crime cases.

The goal of the sweep was to track known offenders and their associates. Deputies can then trace that information to actual crimes and address safety issues in local neighborhoods.

In addition, 19 people were cited for trolley violations as a result of the sweep.

The operation was conducted by Rancho San Diego and Santee Sheriff's Stations, along with the help of deputies from the San Diego County Sheriff's Analysis Driven Law Enforcement Team, La Mesa and El Cajon police departments and MTS.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Uber to Conduct Safety Review After Rape Allegations]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 20:20:53 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/uber-safety.jpg

A safety review is in the works for Uber following allegations of rape and assault on a passenger by a driver.

The company has already announced changes for 2015, including tweaks to its highly criticized procedure for conducting background checks. What the changes will exactly be is still in question, but fingerprinting could be one new measure. For now, however, Uber is only providing a "road map for change" on its website.

One local Uber user, Lisa McKnight, said she's more aware of the risks involved in the convenience of an Uber car, when before she was just excited to use the new service.

But after the rape allegations in Boston, she says she'd rather take a cab.

Another Uber driver also recently faced vehicular manslaughter charges after hitting a 6-year-old girl while allegedly talking on a cell phone.

"I haven't had a bad experience with Uber," McKnight said. "But I would prefer a taxi just for that reason alone."

The company is apparently reevaluating things too.

In a blog titled "Our Commitment to Safety," Uber says they're looking into ways to build new programs and enhance others - biometrics and voice verification, for example.

While voice verification might create a peace of mind, it still doesn't verify the identity of the driver or the passenger, Deputy Director of Digital Forensics Incorporated James Kitt said.

"With a background investigation, I can provide all the documents to tell you I'm somebody else," Kitt said. "With fingerprints, I can't do that, and it's going through an agency that can verify that."

McKnight said drivers should absolutely be fingerprinted because it's easy to bypass a lot of screenings without the certainty of prints.

While Uber's blog said it will work on building safety response teams, partner with experts and act on recommendations from drivers, it doesn't give any examples of actual actions being taken, Kitt points out.

"They're not really telling us what they are looking to do," he said. The company's willingness to invest research, time and money into addressing the concerns is not just a good thing, but a move necessary to stay in business, Kitt added.

<![CDATA[San Ysidro Superintendent Sentencing Delayed]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 06:44:47 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/212*120/manuel+paul+1218.JPG

A federal court judge approved a request to continue the Thursday sentencing of former San Ysidro Superintendent Manuel Paul to January 13.

Paul pleaded guilty in August to a misdemeanor charge of "deprivation of benefits for political contributions," meaning withholding work or another type of benefit unless a political contribution is made.

Federal court Judge William Gallo cited the necessity to give Paul due process, even though he indicated he was not pleased with the defense attorney waiting for the day of the sentencing to argue facts in a pre-sentencing report.

The defense attorney said he was unable to file a response to that document, which is used by the judge in handing down a sentence, because issues in the report would then become available to the public.

Paul declined to comment coming into federal court Thursday.

NBC7 Investigates first reported how, in 2010, Paul accepted $2,500 in parking-lot cash from a contractor seeking work with the district.

After our reporting, Paul agreed to resign from the board with a $200,000 severance package. He promised at the time that if he was ever convicted of any of the accusations, he would return the funds.

The San Ysidro School District is now suing Paul to seek return of those funds.

NBC7 Investigates also reported how Paul continued to run the district by email after leaving his post, about a suspicious burning of public documents at the district headquarters, and about his extensive home renovations.

On Thursday, defense attorney Dan Rodriguez said all those issues were outside the facts of this case.

"I think the right thing happened in court," said Rodriguez. "The court decided that they were going to consider some of the information that's been provided by the media to the probation department. We had hoped that the court would make the decision based on the facts of the case and not on media reports."

Other items he said were not relevant are the financial state of the district and civil lawsuits Paul may be involved in, but community activists say it is Paul's fault the district is now insolvent.

"The children didn't even have paper in their classrooms last year," said Mary Ann Saponara, who worked for the San Ysidro School District for about 40 years.

In letters to the court, some of those activists said it was the misuse of construction funds and over-priced construction projects, awarded in a culture of exchanging contracts for expensive gifts and favors, that caused the district's financial woes. Thursday, six community members submitted letters in support of Paul, but those documents are not yet available on the electronic court records website.

Carol Wallace, the president of the San Ysidro teacher's union, said the judge should not accept the plea deal.

"What it does, if they let him off, is it tells kids that 'I can cheat,' and 'I can extort,' and 'I can just be given a slap on the wrist,'" Wallace said.

<![CDATA[Craziest Border Busts of 2014]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 14:10:43 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/3-6-14-Border+Patrol+Agents+Uncover+Drug-Laced+Candy+Meth+and+Coke+at+I-5+Checkpoint_photo+2.jpg Border Patrol had a busy year, busting would-be smugglers who filled tuna cans, children's cups, mufflers and much, much more with drugs.

Photo Credit: U.S. Border Patrol]]>
<![CDATA[Obama Only Picks Female Reporters]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 16:46:59 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP536550772061.jpg

There was a lot said at President Barack Obama’s annual year-end press conference, but it was who he spoke to during the conference that had people talking.

The President took questions from reporters at the end of his speech, but he only called on female reporters, a move that set the Twittersphere ablaze.

Eight women posed questions during the conference, asking Obama about the Sony hacks, Cuba, race relations, the economy and more.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest confirmed after the event that the move was in fact intentional.

"The fact is, there are many women from a variety of news organizations who day-in and day-out do the hard work of covering the President of the United States. As the questioner list started to come together, we realized that we had a unique opportunity to highlight that fact at the President’s closely watched, end of the year news conference," Earnest said, according to Politico.

While seemingly subtle, the move didn’t go unnoticed by viewers.

Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Anti-Cop Graffiti Hits Philly]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 18:02:57 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Cop+Lives+Dont+Matter+Graffiti.jpg

Anti-police sentiment has materialized in the form of graffiti along a busy avenue in West Philadelphia.

Three messages were scribbled in spray paint on a fence, bar and abandoned church on Baltimore Avenue between 48th and 50th streets.

They read "PPD Killed Brandon Tate Brown," "F--- the Cops" and "Cop Lives Don't Matter."

Brandon Tate Brown is the man shot in the head and killed by a Philadelphia Police officer on Monday following an altercation during a traffic stop. The last message is a play on the chant "Black Lives Matter" that demonstrators have been using recently while protesting against police treatment of African-Americans.

The protests in Philadelphia and other cities around the nation began after grand juries declined to indict white officers in two high profile cases surrounding the deaths of unarmed black teen Michael Brown and the chokehold death of Eric Garner.

It's not clear when the structures were tagged.

"Back in the day you could really run to a cop and trust the cop, but now people are scared to go to cops," nearby resident Sharon Weaver said after seeing the message on the fence.

Kale Good, another resident, said he doesn't agree with defacing a person's property, but that he understands how a person might feel it's the only way to have their voice heard.

"I think what the person is trying to express is that they feel police in general are disregarding their lives or aren't valuing their lives, and so they probably feel an amount of frustration and this is how they expressed it," he said.

A painter was removing the "Cop Lives Don't Matter" message from the fence around noon Friday.

"It’s a shame that someone defaced someone else’s property. We’re going to handle it as a vandalism case, just like we would any other,” Philadelphia Police spokeswoman Tanya Little said.

Little said it is one person's point of view and that the department has and continues to have positive interactions with the community.

"Regardless what the message said, even if it said ‘I love the police,’ this was really a crime against someone else, the property owner," she said.

There were no leads or an estimate on the vandalism's cost, police said.

The city would handle removing the other messages, Mayor Michael Nutter's spokesman, Mark McDonald, said. He didn't immediately have further comment on the graffiti.

NBC10 also reached out to the police union, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, for reaction.

The physical anti-police commentary comes a day after city leaders condemned online commentary by a Philadelphia Fire Department paramedic.

The medic, who works in Southwest Philadelphia, posted a photo to his personal Instagram account of two black men pointing guns at the head of a white police officer. The accompanying message said: "Our real enemy ... Need 2 stop pointing guns at each other and at the ones that's legally killing us and innocents."

The post has since been deleted, an apology made and investigation launched.

A rally in support of the city's men and women in blue is being held on Friday night in the Mayfair section of the city. According to the event's Facebook group, more than 2,000 people said they planned to attend.

Photo Credit: NBC10
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<![CDATA[What If Rivers Can't Play?]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 15:33:16 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/chargers+pats+snf+5.jpg

When Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers missed practice this week, it sent a ripple of panic through the Bolts’ fan base.

What if he can’t play in Saturday night’s critical game against the San Francisco 49ers? Can you remember the last time he wasn’t out there? Do we even have a backup?

Before we get any further, let’s get one thing out of the way: It looks like quarterback Rivers is going to suit up on Saturday night. Just like he has all season, every season since 2006.

That’s 142 straight starts, tied for the second-longest current streak in the NFL.

This is as good a time as any to take a minute to contemplate what that means. In a league where it’s hard for anyone to get through a season without some sort of injury banging them up for at least a few weeks, Rivers has been a rock.

Ever since taking over the starting job from Drew Brees, he has been there. Say what you will about Rivers’ play on the field, but you can’t question his toughness or drive.

“I hate not practicing,” Rivers said.  “But I think at some point you’ve got to do what’s best for me and the team.”

About that missed practice, it’s his first since 2007. Do you know how many players miss practice each day? At this point in the season, a lot of guys don’t even bother with more than a brief walk-through, saving their strength for Sundays.

There have been rumblings for much of the second half of the season that Rivers is not close to fully healthy. Tight end Antonio Gates even let a little too much slip after a win over the Oakland Raiders last month.

"For those who don't know, he's been dealing with a rib injury," Gates said after the Nov. 16 game. "A very severe rib injury, so he's been toughing it out these last three, four weeks."

Rivers won’t divulge how much he’s been hurting, only saying that everyone is banged up this time of year. And the coaches seem to have his back.

"Sometimes you have to use discretion and get a little rest,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. “Just give yourself the best chance to be the strongest you can be for when it really matters most.”

Both Rivers and McCoy said he would be "ready to roll" on Saturday, so Bolts fans don't need to prepare for the worst just yet.

In case you didn't know, the backup is Kellen Clemens, a career backup who has completed one pass this season. He did win four games filling in for an injured Sam Bradford in St. Louis last year. Here’s hoping he won’t be called upon to do that again this season.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Bald Eagle Found Shot Dead in Ct.]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 15:35:02 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Great+Meadow+Road+in+Rocky+Hill+1200.jpg

A $5,000 reward is being offered to help find the person who shot a bald eagle, after the bird — a national symbol — was found dead along a road in Rocky Hill, Connecticut.

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection received a report of a dead eagle along Great Meadows Road in Rocky Hill at 10:13 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 13 and began investigating.

At the time, it was believed that the bird was struck and killed by a car, but that was not the case.

State Environmental Conservation police turned the eagle over to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which conducted a preliminary examination that indicated the eagle’s injuries were from a gunshot.

Bald and Golden Eagles are protected under federal law and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement and State Environmental Conservation Police are jointly investigating. 

The Humane Society of the United States and The Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust work with state and federal wildlife agencies to offer rewards of $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of suspected poachers, according to DEEP.

Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call the Environmental Conservation Police’s Emergency Dispatch Center at 860-424-3333 or toll free at 1-800-842-4357 or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent at 860-871-8348.  

<![CDATA[City Heights Smoke Shop Robber Wanted]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 13:58:00 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/crimestoppers+robbery+1219.jpg

Local authorities are searching for a suspect caught on surveillance camera robbing a City Heights smoke shop.

The man is seen walking into the Euclid Smoke Shop on the 4200 block of Euclid Avenue on Nov. 12 around 8:30 p.m.

He asked the store clerk for a pack of cigarettes, but when the clerk turned away to retrieve them, the suspect pulled out a handgun from his waistband. He then pointed the gun at the clerk and demanded money, according to San Diego County Crime Stoppers.

He was able to take off with cash as he headed south towards an alley on Euclid Avenue.

The suspect is described as 6-feet tall, approximately 250 pounds. He wore a red baseball hat, red shoes and blue jeans at the time of the crime. He had on a large shiny belt buckle and a black long-sleeved shirt. Officials say he had with him a dark-colored semi automatic handgun.

A reward of up to $1,000 is being offered to anyone with information that leads to an arrest in the case.

Anyone with information is asked to call San Diego Police Department's Robbery Unit at (619) 531-2299 or the Crime Stoppers anonymous tip line at (888) 580-8477.

Photo Credit: Crime Stoppers]]>
<![CDATA[SD Man Gets Life in Prison For Fire That Killed 2]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 11:57:42 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/thongsavahn+pic+1219-PIC_0.jpg

A San Diego man found guilty of lighting a house fire that killed his mother and sister was sentenced Friday to three life terms.

Thongsavath Sphabmixay, 46, faces life in prison without parole.

The jury convicted Thongsavath Sphabmixay, 46, of murder, attempted murder and arson, including special circumstance additions of multiple murders and murder by arson.

On April 4, 2013, firefighters discovered Bouakham Sphabmixay, 69, and Pamela Sphabmixay, 48, unconscious in two upstairs rooms after a fire broke out at their Mira Mesa house.

The women were taken to the UCSD burn center, where they died the following day from smoke inhalation.

None of Sphabmixay’s family members showed up for Friday’s sentencing hearing.

Deputy District Attorney Nicole Rooney said “they’ve essentially lost their whole family,” noting the deceased mother and sister and life imprisonment of Sphabmixay.

Rooney said investigators were never able to determine a motive for the crime.

Fire officials said the fire appeared suspicious from the start, for they found gas containers, lighter fluid and lighters inside the home. Rooney said Sphabmixay’s DNA was found on one of the containers.

<![CDATA[Base Housing Open to Military Retirees]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 20:24:44 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/camp+pendleton+housing.JPG

For the first time ever, retired military personnel will have a chance to rent homes on base at Camp Pendleton, thanks to a partnership approved by Congress 15 years ago.

One of the most secure neighborhoods in San Diego County, Camp Pendleton offers modern homes with ocean views in Southern California. The housing development has 7,500 homes, and now some 500 are available for a select few to rent.

The public/private partnership that makes the rental opportunities possible was established to help fund the demand for new homes on military bases. The military agreed that, if needed, a select few would be allowed to move on base.

Andy Killion, Director of Military Affairs for the Brown Region, which includes Camp Pendleton, said now that military services are shrinking in size, the opportunity to open homes to retirees becomes possible.

Aside from retirees, select categories of personnel from the Department of Defense are eligible as well, such as international students and officers, Coast Guard, active-duty military bachelors, DoD civil service and other civil service workers such as the FBI.

Killion, also a retired Marine, said former service members are a good fit as base neighbors because they're comfortable with base housing regulations.

"In the Marine Corps we have a saying, 'Once a Marine, always a Marine,'" Killion said.

Lincoln Military Housing - the organization that runs the base housing - also runs an extensive background check and criminal background investigation before approving potential renters, creating an even safer collection of neighbors.

The cost of rent, which ranges from $1,400 to $2,400, covers utilities, club house and pool use. The rental rates are comparable to active duty, but never lower.

Since the partnership began more than a decade ago, many new homes have been built and others renovated, most with energy efficient upgrades.

For more information on the veteran and retiree rental program, contact Lincoln Military Housing by clicking here or calling (760) 994-4100.

<![CDATA[Son Who Killed Politician Gets Life]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 15:47:33 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/121914+jason+beckman.jpg

Jason Beckman was sentenced to life behind bars Friday for the 2009 shooting death of his father, South Miami Commissioner Jay Beckman.

Judge Rodney Smith said Beckman will serve a mandatory minimum of 25 years in prison before he can ask for parole.

"This is who you are, you're very vengeful, your personality is a ticking time bomb," Smith told Beckman as he handed down the sentence.

Beckman, clad in orange prison clothing, expressed some remorse to Smith over the shooting.

"My father shouldn't be dead, I wish he was here and not because I'm here but because I loved him and I really feel like I could have improved my relationship with him just by doing a few things differently," Beckman said.

Sentencing in the case had been delayed several times in the past year. Beckman was convicted of first-degree murder in the shooting in November 2013.

Beckman was originally charged with manslaughter with a firearm after he told police that he had just wanted to show the gun to his father, but he slipped and fell causing the gun to fire. The charges were upgraded to first-degree murder after friends and family came forward saying the then-17-year-old had talked of killing his father.

A search of the son's belongings showed the former South Miami High junior had compiled a hit list of enemies, with his dad's name on the top, authorities said. Defense attorneys had argued that Jason Beckman didn't shoot the gun intentionally.

Photo Credit: NBC6.com]]>
<![CDATA[Grand Jury Applications Lagging in San Diego County]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 14:20:13 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/civil+grand+jury+san+diego.JPG

San Diego County's civil grand jurors work in secret, investigating complaints and issues involving local government.

But they're now bringing one secret to light: a major problem recruiting new members – for the first time that court officials can recall.

By this time of year, the grand jury usually has more than 100 applicants for the 19 seats on the panel to be sworn in next July 1st.

Right now, with a Jan. 19th deadline looming, that number is down to three dozen.

It's a four-to-five-days a week job -- anything but a money-maker, and not especially glamorous.

For nearly six months now, the current civil grand jurors have been "on the case" of local public agencies -- watchdogging and barking at boondoggles and inefficiencies.

Grand jurors are screened by past grand jurors and judges and appointed by lot, according to a balance of county supervisorial districts.

They’re paid a stipend of $25 a day for six, four-hour days a week, not including Friday tours, plus 56 cents a mile and free courthouse parking.

"We're looking for diversity on both ethnic and thought process-wise -- as for what their experience has been,” said J. Robert O’Connor, a retired civil law attorney who serves as the grand jury’s current foreman.

"Most of our group are retired because they're in a position, financially, to deal with it that way,” O’Connor said in an interview Thursday. “You'd like younger people. But most of them are busy, and don't have the time to do it, and that's understandable."

Civil grand jurors don't issue criminal indictments. Panels convened by prosecutors and judges do that after being chosen from trial jury pools.

That confuses people being recruited for the civil panel.

"They ask the question, 'Well, is the DA controlling what you do?'” O’Connor told NBC 7. “The answer is, the DA is not involved in what we do."

O’Connor said most public agencies criticized in grand jury reports shape up.

Some don't agree to follow the recommendations, or do so only grudgingly after a long passage of time.

Case in point? Criticisms by the 1998-99 and 2007-08 grand juries regarding free seats reserved for the mayor and city council members in the city's skyboxes at Qualcomm Stadium and Petco Park. 

This year, Mayor Kevin Faulconer has proposed leasing the suites to the teams instead.

And, noted O’Connor, there's this result: "Even a grand jury doing an investigation without ever writing a report does a lot of good in that organization. And changes are made behind closed doors, perhaps, but they're made. And the public never learns about it."

To find out how to apply to be a part of the grand jury, click here.

<![CDATA[Carjacking Suspect Stabbed as He Steals Jeep]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 19:40:31 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/carjacking+stabbing+1217.JPG

A man sitting in his Jeep pulled a knife on the suspect who punched him and stole his SUV in Grant Hill, according to San Diego police.

Thursday evening, the victim was in his Jeep Cherokee in the 2500 block of L Street when a man walked up to him and started hitting him in the face, police say.

As the victim was hit over and over, he reached for a pocket knife and stabbed the suspect at least once.

The punches stopped, but the suspect was able to pull the victim out of his vehicle and escape in it.

Using lojack tracking technology, the SDPD tracked the suspect to Spring Valley, pulled him over and arrested him.

Both men are being taken to the hospital for their injuries.

The incident is under investigation.

<![CDATA[Reward Offered After Dog Injured]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 07:41:29 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/dog+hook+121814.PNG

A dog is recovering after he was discovered with a horrific injury: a hiking carabiner hooked straight through his hind leg.

Ziggs, a one-year-old pitbull, was discovered roaming through Miami's Little Haiti neighborhood Wednesday afternoon, dragging a severed leash behind him. That leash was attached to the carabiner, which Dr. Al Meilan at South Federal Animal Hospital said was forcibly and intentionally inserted into the dog's leg.

"The carabiner is a dull thing, so in order to get it, they had to use a drill or something sharp to make the hole first, and then stick the carabiner through his leg," Meilan said.

Members of the Forgotten Dog Rescue believe the dog's owners used the carabiner to restrain the dog.

"Someone actually went out of their way to do this to this dog," said Amy Blitz with the rescue group. "It ranks on the mutilation type of torture."

Meilan said it appears the ring had been lodged in Ziggs' leg for several months, with evidence of similar injuries in the past.

Forgotten Dog Rescue said they are offering a cash reward for any information that leads to the arrest of Ziggs' owner. The rescuers said they won't stop until there is justice for the injured dog.

"The person that did this, it's probably somebody that if they could do this to an animal, they could do it to a person or a child," Blitz said.

The animal hospital expects Ziggs to make a full recovery within two to three weeks. He will be made available for adoption once he heals.

Anyone with information about the dog's owners can leave an anonymous tip with the Forgotten Dog Rescue via email at forgottendogrescue@yahoo.com.

<![CDATA[4th Victim Dies After DUI Crash]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 07:40:03 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/202*120/12-19-2014-gaza-redondo-beach-crash.jpg

A fourth victim, identified as a 6-year-old boy, has died after a DUI suspect struck a group of people in a crowded crosswalk as they left a children's Christmas show Wednesday night at a Southern California church.

Samuel Gaza was among a dozen people who were in a crosswalk outside St. James Catholic Church in Redondo Beach when they were struck by a driver who, according to witnesses, ran a red light and swerved around vehicles stopped at a red light. Gaza was hospitalized Thursday in critical condition and died late Thursday night, according to the Los Angeles County Coroner's office.

Gaza's mother, 36-year-old Martha Gaza, also was killed in the crash. Mary Wilson, 81, and Saeko Matsumura, 87, all from Torrance, also died Wednesday night.

Police confirmed at a Thursday morning news conference that prescription drug use by the driver is part of their investigation. Police also confirmed a witness account that the driver went around other vehicles stopped at about 8 p.m. at the intersection of Vincent Street and Pacific Coast Highway.

Two adults and a child were in stable condition Friday morning. Six other victims were treated for minor cuts and bruises before they were released from the hospital.

Witness accounts provided to police indicated the driver, headed northbound on Pacific Coast Highway, went around vehicles stopped at the intersection and entered the left turn lane. The driver then continued north on PCH, striking another vehicle and pedestrians, according to police.

Parishioners returned to the church Thursday morning and at noon for services to remember the victims. Michael Tovar, a St. James parishioner, said he will never recover from what he saw.

"I was standing by the front of his car and looked down, me and another gentleman, and there was the little boy underneath his left front tire," he said. "I thought it was a jacket his car was on. It was underneath the left front tire. I could not believe that."

Police identified the suspect as 56-year-old Margo Bronstein. She was arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter and felony DUI. Bronstein was treated at a hospital for injuries before she was taken to the Redondo Beach Police Department jail, where she is being held on $300,000 bond.

She is scheduled to make her first court appearance Friday.

DMV records indicated the Bronstein does not have prior criminal offenses. Her vehicle was equipped with modifications for drivers with disabilities, including an additional passenger-side mirror and hand controls, according to California Department of Motor Vehicle records.

Police are awaiting the results of toxicology tests.


Photo Credit: Gaza Family]]>
<![CDATA[Friend Defends DUI Crash Driver]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 05:20:38 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/12-18-2014-redondo-beach-dui-margo-bronstein.jpg

A friend of the woman accused of killing three people in a crash outside a church in Redondo Beach, California, has said she is not someone who would drink and drive.

Margo Bronstein, 56, has been booked on suspicion of felony DUI and vehicular manslaughter, but Timothy Eakin believes medication she takes due to being disabled or a mechanical failure may have caused the accident, which also left 10 others injured, including children.

Police say toxicology reports on Bronstein are pending, and she is being held at a Redondo Beach Police Department jail on a $300,000 bond. Investigators confirmed prescription drug use by the driver is part of their investigation.

"She had had a whole bunch of surgeries on her legs and on her hips, and that’s why she’s barely 4 feet tall. She was always in a wheelchair, but she was able to drive with hand controls," Eakin said. "Maybe the hand controls might have failed, and that might have caused it. But she also did take a lot of prescription medications, and the medications she took were like, muscle relaxers, and for pain."

He also does not believe his friend, who he met at Disneyland, is the sort of person who would get behind the wheel under the influence of alcohol.

"She's not somebody who just went into a bar and got wasted and plowed through an intersection at a concert. This is something that was probably a complete accident, never something she would have done on purpose," Eakin said.

Prayers have been said all day at St James Catholic Church, where victims had just attended a Christmas concert. Eiken believes his friend may have been a visitor to the event herself.

Witness Michael Tovar said he screamed at Bronstein after the crash, demanding to know if she had been drinking. He said he had to be pulled away by his wife.

"(I said) what is wrong with you? What did you do? Are you drunk? I yelled that about five times, 'Are you drunk?' And she looked up at me, made eye contact."

Children had just finished singing Christmas songs for their parents and other members of the church.

Mary Wilson, 81, Saeko Matsumura, 87, and Martha Gaza, 36, all from Torrance, died, according to the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office. One of Gaza's three children, a 5-year-old boy, was hospitalized in critical condition.

One other adult also was in critical condition Thursday.

Photo Credit: Redondo Beach PD]]>
<![CDATA[Outrage Over Paramedic's Photo]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 05:21:56 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/226*120/IG+Paramedic+Post.JPG

Mayor Michael Nutter and Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer condemned a Philadelphia Fire Department paramedic for a photograph shared on Instagram that depicted two black men pointing guns at a white police officer.

"I thought it was disgusting," said Sawyer, who added the image violates the fire department's social media policy. "We are a professional organization and I expect my members to act in a professional manner."

"In the strongest possible terms, I condemn the behavior of a paramedic ... who used social media to post a reprehensible message and image that targeted police officers particularly at a time of emotional volatility," Mayor Nutter said.

The message posted with the photo read: "Our real enemy ... Need 2 stop pointing guns at each other and at the ones that's legally killing us and innocents."

The next image posted to the same account said, "There are numerous crooked and corrupted cops (mostly white) & mostly they harass, beat or kill innocents (mostly blacks)."

The posts caused alarm among Philly firefighters, who do not want a fissure to form between themselves and police.

"In this difficult time, I want to assure the members of the Philadelphia Police Department that we are here to support and assist you whenever you may need," said Joe Schulle, president of Local 22, the firefighters and paramedics union. "[We] proudly stand shoulder to shoulder with our brothers in blue. ... We are brothers and sisters in public safety."

Hours after the initial post caught the ire of Philly leaders, the paramedic, who is based out of Medic 23 in southwest Philly, shared an apology on social media.

"That post was out of anger of what is going on around the world (Mike Brown, Eric Garner & Etc.) &  past experiences that I've had with police," the post said. "My intention was not to slander or hurt anyone or my brothers in blue. Again I am sorry."

An investigation is underway, and Sawyer said the charged images are unlikely to damage the bond between the Philly's Fire Department and police force.

"We have a pretty strong relationship with the police department," he said. "So one member's mistake is not going to severe those ties."

<![CDATA[Blaze Over NoCal Refinery "Normal"]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 16:13:02 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/212*120/chevronmain.JPG

Fire officials and Chevron said the large dramatic flames seen over the Richmond Chevron refinery in Northern California Thursday were a result of "normal flaring." But that didn't do much to comfort people living near the troubled refinery, who called the flares anything but "normal" on social media.

Both Contra Costa fire department officials and Chevron said there was no need for alarm, calling the flaring normal procedure to vent gas. They added that fire crews had not been called to the scene. The official Twitter account for @ChevronRichmond tweeted Thursday evening that "there was some visible flaring" to allow for equipment de-pressuring.

Chevron said that the refinery resumed normal operations Friday morning after the unit that needed to be depressurized Thursday night was successfully shut down. Chevron said community air monitoring stations reported levels below state and federal health limits.

"We understand that the community has been concerned about the flaring activity," a Chevron spokesperson said after the flares alarmed a number of Bay Area residents Thursday. "We had a process unit that needed to be depressurized, creating a visible flare. The flare is part of our safety system which enables us to safely shut down a unit. We are in the process of shutting down this unit now."

Some Bay Area residents tweeted about the flares, with one of them asking: "Gigantic fire balls are now normal flares?"

Another said: "If it's 'normal,' then why don't we see this regularly?"

Jamal Vaughn, who lives near the Richmond refinery, expressed concern about the flames coming out of the stacks.

"No alarm went off ... It's Kind of strange, there should have been a warning," he said. It's an alarming sight for the Vaughns, who remember the 2012 Chevron refinery fire.

"I worry about our health — last time we were at the hospital for four hours because I have asthma and needed breathing treatment," Vaughn's wife Michelle said, adding that the family will be shutting all their windows tonight.

Chevron's statement said that in flaring conditions, it is normal practice to release quantities of water vapor to assist with the flare quality, which can sometimes take on the appearance of smoke, but it is not smoke.

Both Chevron and Contra Costa Health Services said that there may be intermittent flaring Thursday evening. According to health officials, hazardous materials staff were monitoring the situation and there was no shelter-in-place.

NBC Bay Area viewers said they could see the fire from as far away as the El Cerrito Hills, San Rafael, San Francisco and the Bay Bridge. A photo taken by Twitter user @bluerabbit77 from the Oakland Hills showed the flares creating an orange haze over the night sky.

NBC Bay Area's Jean Elle contributed to this report.


Huge fire at the Chevron Refinery?? #fire #chevronrefinery #richmond

A photo posted by Blue Rabbit (@bluerabbit77) on


#apocalypse #endoftheworld

A photo posted by Pardeezy Dhillon (@kingsnake172) on

Photo Credit: Blue Rabbit ‏@bluerabbit77 Via Twitter ]]>
<![CDATA[Couple Inhales Lethal Level of Carbon Monoxide]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 08:49:45 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/wall+heater.JPG

A Chula Vista couple was hospitalized Thursday after breathing in a lethal level of carbon monoxide.

The woman called 911, saying her husband was unconscious in the 400 block of Del Mar Court. While on the phone, the woman became disoriented. Chula Vista firefighters say they were saved just in time.

The couple had turned on their wall-mounted here for the first time this season, costing them a terrible price.

Robin Price watched as her next door neighbors were rushed to the hospital at about 9:30 a.m. Thursday, suffering carbon monoxide poisoning.

“Kinda freaked me out actually,” Price said. “We have one of those wall heaters as well. I don't use it, but you never know. They could just -- like a leak could come through and you never know,” Price said.

Firefighters say that’s exactly what happened. Carbon monoxide at 15 parts per million is enough to set off a home detector. The Chula Vista home had 50 times that level.

The CVFD responds to between 20 and 30 such calls each year, but this was their first, said Deputy Chief Justin Gipson.

“If you are starting to get a dull headache , if you are nauseated if you start to vomit , if you feel overall weak throughout your body if you lose consciousness -- those are classic examples of getting carbon monoxide poisoning,” Gipson said.

If you experience any of those symptoms, he recommends you get outside and call for help.

The best prevention is to install a carbon monoxide detector and have your gas appliances and fire place inspected. SDG&E will do it for free.

<![CDATA[Sen. Ben Hueso to Serve 3 Years' Probation]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 21:16:28 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/ben+hueso.JPG

California State Sen. Ben Hueso will serve three years of probation and undergo a six-week alcohol program after he was arrested in August and charged with DUI.

Hueso, a Democrat from San Diego, pleaded no contest Thursday to a lesser “wet reckless” charge, which means he will not face any jail time. Instead, his plea deal requires the probation, alcohol program and a $240 fine.

On Aug. 22, the 44-year-old state senator was reportedly caught driving the wrong way on a one-way street in Sacramento, according to KCRA.

A California Highway Patrol officer pulled Hueso over at a gas station, where surveillance video showed him doing sobriety tests. He was arrested shortly after, and CHP says he had a blood alcohol content of 0.08.

Hueso was offered the wet reckless charge because prosecutors have a difficult time proving DUI when defendants only register a 0.08. There is the possibility of a “scientific error factor” in the tests used to prove people are legally drunk, prosecutors say.

The day after he was released on bond, Hueso released a statement which read, in part, “I am truly and profoundly sorry for the unacceptably poor personal judgment which I demonstrated last night.”

Hueso's 40th District covers southern San Diego County, parts of Riverside County and Imperial County.

<![CDATA[Man Found Badly Beaten in Gaslamp Dies]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 08:55:38 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/gaslamp+beating+121414.jpg

The man found badly beaten in the Gaslamp District early Sunday morning has died.

San Diego resident Eric Galen Hatcher, 29, was discovered lying on the road at G Street and Fourth Avenue with serious head trauma.

San Diego police say he had been involved in a fight that broke up as officers approached.

Hatcher was taken to the hospital but has since died.

Now, investigators are searching for a person of interest in this case, described as a white man between 25 and 30 years old, standing about 5-foot-9 and weighing 165 pounds. He was wearing a grey suit jacket and grey dress pants at the time.

The SDPD is expected to release video of the incident at a later time.

If you know anything about the fight, call the homicide unit at 619-531-2293 or Crime Stoppers at 888-580-8477.

Photo Credit: NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[Padilla Ends Chula Vista City Council Race Recount]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 14:21:03 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Padilla-McCann-Chula-Vista-.jpg

After weeks of counting ballots, the Chula Vista City Council race is hours away from officially being decided.

Democrat Steve Padilla suspended a recount request Thursday after opponent John McCann won the District 1 seat by two points last month.

In a statement Padilla said it's clear that "many valid ballots are not being counted and this recount is unlikely to change the result."

""In the most common case, registered Chula Vista voters cast ballots on Election Day, but in listing a mailing address on their voting materials, had their votes thrown out. The Registrar’s decision to throw out these valid votes and silence these voters’ voices is wrong," said Padilla.

Now that the recount has been suspended, members of the public have 24 hours to request an additional recount. If no one requests a recount, the results will be official Friday morning.

The race went to a recount earlier this month after a recount was requested by Humberto Peraza Jr., who is lobbyist and a Southwestern Community College board trustee.

San Diego County Registrar of Voters Michael Vu said Dec. 2 certified results from the election showed McCann won with 18,448 votes to Padilla's 18,446.

McCann said in the future, he and his staff will look into alternative options to help Chula Vista residents ensure their voice is heard, saying he remains “more committed than ever to counting every vote.”

The last time Chula Vista saw a close race like this was in June 2010, when U.S. Rep. Juan Vargas (D-San Diego) went up against then-Assemblywoman Mary Salas for the 40th state Senate District. The race did end in a recount, but Salas halted it on the third day, allowing Vargas to win by 22 votes.

<![CDATA[Man Dead After SWAT Standoff in Serra Mesa: Police]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 08:42:32 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Serra+Mesa+SWAT+standoff.jpg

A man barricaded inside a Serra Mesa apartment kept SWAT officers at bay for hours early Thursday morning before killing himself, police said.

The standoff started at about 1:30 a.m. at an apartment complex in the 2600 block of Mission Village Drive. San Diego police said the man’s two roommates alerted them that the man – despondent over having a terminal illness -- was threatening to take his own life.

The man had weapons inside the apartment, police said.

Responding officers heard gunshots inside the apartment. However, they saw movement inside, so they waited outside for hours until entering the apartment.

Meanwhile, the man’s two roommates were able to exit safely. Police evacuated eight nearby apartments and two homes during the standoff.

Just before 6 a.m., police told NBC 7 that the man was found dead inside the apartment.

<![CDATA[FBI in San Diego Aiding Sony Hack Investigation]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 14:42:58 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP899632906985.jpg

As federal officials dig into who is responsible for a hack on Sony Pictures, the FBI in San Diego is aiding the investigation, officials confirmed.

NBC News confirmed Wednesday a federal investigation found North Korea was responsible for the cyber attack. This news comes as the studio decided to pull the Christmas Day release of the film, "The Interview."

San Diego County-based computer security specialist Dan Tentler, who according to USA Today downloaded some of the stolen Sony files, tweeted last week the FBI visited his home.

NBC 7 spoke to Tentler Wednesday night. He wouldn’t discuss the FBI involvement but did say this hack exposes, once again, Sony’s lack of cyber security. Tentler said the security world is looking at how to keep it from happening to them.

"The security community is interested in making sure that if mistakes were made that were easy to spot, that other people don't make the same mistakes,” said Tentler who is the co-founder of Carbon Dynamics.

An FBI spokesperson says agents in San Diego are supporting this investigation and are working collaboratively with its partners to investigate.

“This is an interesting hack because it’s not being carried out for financial gain," explained ESET Senior Security Researcher Stephen Cobb. "It’s very different from the Target breach, where credit card numbers were stolen. This is a group that has an agenda and apparently it is a political agenda."

Sony announced it would drop the Christmas Day release of “The Interview” after some of the country’s largest theater chains said they would not be showing the movie. The same group who claimed to hack Sony, Guardians of Peace, threatened violence, indicating that the world would be full of fear as on 9/11.

The White House said Thursday it considers the hacking a "serious national security matter" and will plan a "proportional response" when investigators are sure who is responsible. The Obama administration has not confirmed publicly that North Korea was involved.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Dispensary Landlord Ordered to Pay $250k in Fines]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 13:41:22 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/06-11-2014-medical-marijuana-generic.jpg

The San Diego City Attorney's Office has been awarded a $250,000 judgement against a landlord that allowed marijuana dispensaries to operate out of his buildings, despite the city's orders not to.

John I. Nobel was ordered to pay the fines - the largest penalty the city attorney's office has ever obtained - to cover $80,000 of a previous judgement, investigative costs reaching $8,000 and the new judgement for not complying with the first decision, the city attorney's office said.

"In cases where dispensaries operate outside of the law, we will continue to hold the operators and property owners accountable for the illegal activities," City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said. "...And we will seek the highest penalties the courts will allow."

Nobel's initial assessment reached a total of $550,000, but $300,000 was suspended, so long as he complies with the requirements this time.

Nobel is required to close any remaining dispensaries operating out of his properties unlawfully and remove their fixtures and signage. Failure to do so could also get Nobel a contempt of court charge.

"This case underscores that landlords will be held accountable for renting to illegal marijuana dispensaries," Goldsmith said.

The city attorney's office has spent the past four years exposing and shutting down illegally operated marijuana dispensaries. During that time, Nobel had dispensaries running unlawfully out of his properties in North Park, Pacific Beach and Point Loma, they said.

Four dispensaries on Rosecrans Street were operating 600 feet from a school, which is an immediate violation of the zoning laws for marijuana cooperatives.

"There is a process in place for legally zoned dispensaries and that process should be followed," Goldsmith said.

Five more defendants were included in the 12 cases. While Nobel was named in every case, the complaints also named Mahin Nobel. Some said Parviz Hakakha, Judith Hakakha, David Abeles and Melody Abeles were all co-owners, according to the report from the city attorney's office.

The cases resolved in the $250,000 settlement are listed here with principal defendents in parentheses:

  • San Diego Organic Wellness, 1150 Garnet Avenue (John Nobel, Mahin Nobel)
  • Golden West Collective, 2603 University Avenue (John Nobel, Mahin Nobel)
  • Fresh Alternative Consulting, Inc., 3045 Rosecrans #208 (John Nobel, Mahin Nobel, Parviz Hakakha, Judith Hakakha)
  • Green Wellness Association, Inc., 3045 Rosecrans #207 (John Nobel, Mahin Nobel, Parviz Hakakha, Judith Hakakha)
  • SB Health, Inc., 3045 Rosecrans #310 (John Nobel, Mahin Nobel, Parviz Hakakha, Judith Hakakha)
  • S.C.C.G., Inc., 3045 Rosecrans #214 (John Nobel, Mahin Nobel, Parviz Hakakha, Judith Hakakha)
  • PB 45 CAP, Inc., 4688 Cass Street (John Nobel, Mahin Nobel)
  • Organic Roots Delivery, Inc., 2603 University Avenue (John Nobel, Mahin Nobel)
  • Lemoin Corp, 936 Garnet Street (John Nobel, Mahin Nobel, David Abeles, Melody Abeles)
  • Patient Med Aid, 2015 Garnet Avenue (John Nobel, Mahin Nobel)
  • Dank on Turquoise, Inc., 841 Turquoise Street, (John Nobel, Mahin Nobel)

Complaints regarding marijuana dispensaries can be referred to the Code Enforcement Division of the city by calling (619) 236-5500.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[ Woman Arrested on Burglary Charges for 2nd Time in Month]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 20:47:25 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/package-theft-suspect.jpg

A Southern California woman was arrested for a burglary committed just two days after she was released from jail for the same offense.

Detectives from the San Diego Regional Fugitive Task Force arrested Martha Lampley of Spring Valley on multiple felony warrants Thursday in connection with the theft of packages and at least one other burglary.

Lampley was arrested on Nov. 29 for a parole violation, burglary and possession of a controlled substance. According to the sheriff's department, she stole deliveries right off people's porches in the Lemon Grove, Spring Valley and El Cajon areas.

Home surveillance video shows her driving a Uhaul truck to one house, going to the front and taking a package away, deputies say.

She posted bail on Dec. 4, and just two days later was at it again, sheriff's officials say. A victim whose iPad Air was stolen while she was at home identified Lampley as the suspect. She was also identified by other victims through a series of photos.

The investigation is ongoing, but if Lampley is convicted of her current charges, she faces 44 years in prison.

Photo Credit: San Diego Sheriff's Department]]>
<![CDATA[Experts: WWIII Looks Like Sony Hack]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 06:03:12 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/N6P-SONY-KOREA-HACK-PKG---03282609.jpg

The term “cyber warfare” has been thrown around for years, with security experts wondering what the effects of a damaging cyber attack might look like. Now we know: a Hollywood studio left paralyzed, and the center of the tech world is wondering what's next.

As the billboards advertising Sony Pictures' "The Interview" were pulled down in Hollywood on Thursday, concerns about cyber terrorism shot up in Silicon Valley.

"World War III looks like this,” said Michelle Dennedy, Intel Security's chief privacy officer. She said technology is the new battlefield, and our gadgets are all potential targets.

"This is the wave of the future,” Dennedy said. “Bank robbers robbed banks because that's where the money was. Data is currency. Hackers are going for it because it's valuable."

What happened at Sony should, according to cyber security experts, be a warning to us all.

"This is the first time we've seen it at this scale,” said Truman National Security Project’s Mike McNerney.

The goal of hackers is not just disruption, it's fear, McNerney said. "This is different. The way they were able to combine this online attack that got them the attention they wanted, and then mix this with threat of physical violence, it's something we really haven't seen before."

But it’s likely something we'll see again, as hackers try to invade banks, retailers, anything with an easy to open virtual door.

"I think everyone needs to be worried about this," McNerney said, “whether it's an organization, government entity, or an individual.”

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Brooklyn Rapper Arrested in Sting]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 17:51:02 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/shmurda+walk+copy.jpg

The up-and-coming Brooklyn rapper who performs under the name Bobby Shmurda was part of a gang that allegedly sold drugs, dealt guns and committed violent crimes, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said in a news conference Thursday detailing the investigation that led to his arrest.

Ackquille Pollard, 20, was taken into custody with seven others shortly after he left a recording studio near Radio City Music Hall in midtown Manhattan on Wednesday. Police recovered crack cocaine and three guns from a stairwell inside Quad Studio, Bratton said.

The Brooklyn-born Pollard is best known for the hit song "Hot Boy." He also put out a music video that popularized a dance craze called the "Shmoney dance," and reportedly signed a lucrative record deal with Epic Records. 

Pollard was stopped in a vehicle with another defendant, Nicolas McCoy, soon after leaving the studio Wednesday, prosecutors said, and there were two guns and a small amount of crack cocaine inside the car. There were other passengers in the car who are not named in the indictment but face separate criminal charges. 

Five other defendants named in the indictment were arrested at the same time elsewhere in the city, and two others are in custody outside the state, authorities said.

Pollard was arraigned on conspiracy, reckless endangerment, and weapons and drug charges Thursday. Twelve other defendants are named in the 69-count indictment, including Chad Marshall, another aspiring hip-hop artist known as Rowdy Rebel. 

Pollard pleaded not guilty in court Thursday. His attorney, Howard Greenberg, failed to convince a judge that his client should be released without bail because he was framed and had no reason to run.

"He is a legitimate entertainer,'' Greenberg said. "He is rich. He is busy. He is always on tour.''

Greenberg claimed Epic had agreed to help Pollard make his $2 million bail. A spokesman for the label declined to comment.

Bratton said Pollard was tweeting about a secret concert days before his arrest.

"I don't think he was aware that location is going to be state Supreme Court," Bratton said. 

Pollard did not comment to reporters as he was led from a Manhattan police station in handcuffs Wednesday night. 

G Stone Crips, or GS9, the gang Pollard was allegedly part of, is tied to the murder of a 19-year-old rival gang member on Feb. 8, 2013, and to gunshots fired outside New York and Miami nightclubs in recent months, according to Bratton. The investigation began after 24 shootings were traced to the gang since 2013.

Most of violence stemmed from an ongoing dispute between GS9 and members of rival street gangs, including the gang known as Folk Nation and the gang known as Brooklyn's Most Wanted, or BMW, according to prosecutors. 

The deadly February 2013 shooting inside a Brooklyn bodega capped a series of violent confrontations between GS9 and BMW, according to prosecutors. Pollard was at the scene of the shooting, they said. 

Pollard is also accused of firing a gun towards a crowd of people outside a Clarkson Avenue barber shop on June 2, shattering a glass storefront. Prosecutors said a recorded phone conversation between other GS9 members revealed that Pollard had fired the gun during an argument with his brother Javese Pollard, also an alleged GS9 member. 

Prosecutors said in another July 2014 incident, just before he performed at Barclays Center, Marshall and another defendant allegedly fired shots at rival gang members while driving on a street in Boerum Hill.

According to prosecutors, a distinctive system of code words and phrases allowed GS9 members to communicate with one another while hiding the nature of their communication from others. Among the code words for firearms were “tone” and “socks." “Crills” referred to narcotics, and “suntan” or “scoom” referred to shootings.

The gang is mainly based at 95th Street and Clarkson Avenue in East Flatbush, Bratton said. The bust was made by the Brooklyn South Violence Reduction Task Force, which was formed this year. 

The case carries some "deeply disturbing themes: The gang members' enthrallment with guns, and a cavalier disregard for human life,'' Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan said at a news conference.

The hip-hop artist's songs and videos were "almost like a real-life document of what they were doing on the street,'' added James Essig, head of the NYPD task force that made the arrests.

Greenberg told reporters he believes Pollard and the other defendants were targeted because "the government hates rap and hates rappers and hates lyrics." 

Pollack's video for "Hot Boy" was posted on YouTube in August has been viewed tens of millions of times, and Pollard performed the song for a national television audience in October on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon." 

"My music is straight facts," Pollard recently told New York Magazine. "There are a lot of gangsters in my 'hood.'"

Pollard's criminal history included two arrests for gun and drug possession, authorities said.

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<![CDATA[Plane Crashes in Dallas; Pilot Dead]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 10:11:04 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/plane+crash10.jpg

The pilot of a small plane was killed Thursday night when his single-engine aircraft crashed in Seagoville while descending to land at Mesquite Metro Airport.

The plane went down just after 6 p.m. Thursday in the 1600 block of Bent Tree Road near West Malloy Bridge Road, officials said.

The pilot, who was the only person aboard the plane, has not been identified. There are no other known injuries.

The plane, a 1967 Beechcraft Bonanza, was trying to land in Mesquite when air traffic control operators lost contact with its pilot, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson said.

"It's broken to pieces. There's a lot of debris around," Capt. Ray Calverley, of the Seagoville Police Department, said Thursday night.

Despite initial reports that the plane had hit at least one house before it hit the ground, investigators on the scene have not been able to confirm that, Calverley told NBC DFW. Officers went door to door asking neighbors if their homes were damaged in the crash, and no one has reported that they did, Calverley said.

"We heard a real loud engine," neighborhood resident Fred Baugh said. "It wasn't like a normal approach, it was just all of a sudden a real loud engine."

The FAA confirms the plane departed from South Arkansas Regional Airport Wednesday at 3:35 p.m.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News
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<![CDATA[Arson Sparked Downtown LA Inferno]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 07:54:47 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/downtown-la-structure-fire.jpg

Last week's massive downtown LA fire at an apartment complex that was under construction was an act of arson, authorities said Thursday.

Investigators said they recovered an accelerant, pointing to arson. The fire on Dec. 8 at 900 West Temple Street destroyed a seven-story complex under construction, damaged a nearby high-rise structures and the Harbor (110) Freeway.

Flames billowed into the air, making smoke visible for miles and radiating enough heat to shatter the windows of nearby office towers.

The blaze caused up to $30 million in damage to the DaVinci Apartments. Total damage estimates to nearby businesses and Caltrans property remain undetermined.

Local and federal Investigators sifted through 75,000 square feet of debris, took photographs, recovered potential evidence from the scene for analysis by the ATF's National Laboratory and conducted many interviews throughout the community.

The team finished combing through the debris on Wednesday, and will continue to follow up on the case to identify the culprit or culprits.

"The work at the crime scene is finished, however our investigation is not over," said ATF Special Agent in Charge Carlos A. Canino. "ATF will continue to work together with our state and local partners to investigate this crime and bring those responsible to justice."

Los Angeles Fire Department Battalion Chief Robert Nelson, who heads the agency's arson/counter-terrorism section, said the department will continue to work with the ATF, the LAPD and other law enforcement agencies to "vigorously pursue this investigation.

"Arson is a serious crime," he said in a news release. "We will use all of our available resources to arrest and prosecute any individuals involved in any arson fire in Los Angeles."

Investigators continue to seek information on two potential witnesses seen in video footage taken the morning of Dec. 8.

They are not considered suspects nor persons of interest. Investigators have identified them as being in the area of the fire, and want to interview them.

<![CDATA[Point Loma Fisherman Honored for Rescue]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 15:55:00 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/PL+Fisherman.jpg

A Point Loma fisherman that rescued 11 people -- though two ultimately died on the way to shore -- in Hawaii this past May was hailed a hero and honored by the U.S. Coast Guard Wednesday.

On May 2, fishing boat captain Gregory Virissimo and his crew found the fishing boat Fu Yuan Yu 065 burning 1,500 feet off the coast of Hawai’i with 11 survivors floating in a life raft a few feet from the vessel.

Though he was presented a public service award and called a hero by many, Virissimo said after receiving the award that he did not think he was a hero.

"I just think that life is precious and that if you can rescue somebody, that’s your job," Virissimo said.

Virissimo and his crew rescued the 11 survivors – four of them severely burned and in critical condition – and brought them aboard their own 300 foot ship. They spent the night on board the ship tending to the wounded as they waited for parashooters to come in with supplies, he said.

"I knew that two were going to die," Varissimo told NBC 7 after the award ceremony as he recounted the experience. "I knew that two were going to pass away, and quickly, and I informed them of that and. . .it was a sick feeling."

On the way to the shore, two of the survivors died. The crew transferred seven survivors and the two deceased to a sister ship before continuing on to shore with two critically injured survivors.

Once on land, the Joint Rescue Coordination Center Honolulu worked with U.S. Air Force 563d Rescue Group and Arizona Air National Guard to stabilize and transport the two survivors in critical condition. They were taken to the UC San Diego Medical Center where they were treated and released.

The boat rescued Chinese nationals, Virissimo said. Though they could not communicate the crew, they did know one phrase in English.

"What they did know in English was thank you," Virissimo said. "They kept saying, 'thank you, thank you.'"

Captain Jonathan Spaner, commander of the Coast Guard San Diego, Maj. Scott Swigert, the aircraft commander of one of the HC-130Js on the mission, and Lt. Col. Matthew McGuire, the flight lead on the HH-60G formation, attended the Thursday morning ceremony.

For Varissimo, receiving the award felt "really good."

"It just makes me feel that what I did was the right thing, that my crew, what they did was the right thing," Virissimo said.

<![CDATA[Woman Threatens Kids With Gun: Cops]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 16:49:34 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/barnegat+rifle+pointed.jpg

A 35-year-old woman has been accused of pointing a rifle at several children after getting into an argument with them outside of her New Jersey home Wednesday afternoon, police say.

The woman was charged with making terroristic threats, endangering the welfare of a child and several weapons crimes after police say she threatened the children with a Remington 597 rifle outside her home on Schooner Avenue in Barnegat.

"She was waving the rifle around. She was leveling the rifle at people," said Barnegat Police Lt. Keith Germain. 

Police say the woman went inside her home to grab the gun after getting in an argument with the children after a basketball game. 

Neighbor Beverly Meila said the woman had been driving her SUV down the street when she saw her son playing at a basketball hoop on the street. She yelled at him to get in the car, according to Meila.

"The kids were all screaming and yelling, and the kid got in the car and she tore off down the street," said Meila. 

Moments later, she came out of her house with the rifle, according to police. 

Several people called 911, and the woman was allegedly still in the street holding the gun when police arrived at the scene.

"They were able to talk to her, get her to place the rifle on the ground and take her into custody with no force," said Germain. 

She was arrested at the scene and was being held at the Ocean County Jail in lieu of $175,000 bail, police say. The woman did have a permit to own a rifle. 

"The children did abolsutely nothing wrong," Meila said. "They were just playing basketball like kids do. They're good kids." 

-- Brian Thompson contributed to this report. 

<![CDATA[Teen Mugged Do-Gooder, 99: PD]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 16:34:51 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Windsor+Senior+Center+1200.jpg

Police have arrested a 17-year-old boy accused of knocking a 99-year-old woman to the ground and stealing her purse while she was delivering homemade Christmas cookies to a senior center in Windsor, Connecticut.

The woman was bringing treats to the LP Wilson Community Center when authorities say the teen came up behind her, pushed her down, took her purse and ran off while she was still on the ground.

Windsor police took the teen into custody in Hartford at 10:30 a.m., about half an hour after obtaining the juvenile arrest warrant. 

The teen's name has not been released because of his age. He has been charged with third-degree robbery, sixth-degree larceny and assault of an elderly person and will appear in juvenile court.

"This guy took advantage and made her a victim," Capt. Kelvan Kearse, of the Windsor Police Department, said Wednesday.

The senior center where the woman was attacked, located at 599 Matianuck Avenue, includes a senior center, a youth service bureau, the recreation office and social service.  

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com
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<![CDATA[160-Pound Newborn Rhino Receiving Special Care]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 16:22:42 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/baby-goh-rhino.jpg

San Diego Zoo Safari Park caretakers are hand-raising a baby rhino after he wasn't gaining enough weight.

The 3-week-old greater one-horned rhino calf weighed 160 pounds at birth. Every mother's dream, right? But for this big boy, that is actually the lower end of the 160-176 pound norm for these tough-skinned newborns. His first-time mother Kaya gave birth to the still-unnamed calf on Nov. 27, according to the San Diego Zoo.

Kaya nursed the calf herself for two weeks, but the zoo said when her baby failed to get adequate nutrition, he was taken to the Safari Park's animal care center for hand feedings every other hour and round-the-clock observation. (What a tough job those zoo keepers have: Who wants to watch an adorable baby rhino tromp around all day?)

Because the rhino calf is being raised in a nursery now, exercise is an important part of building up his strength and health. After hanging with his new pals for a week, the baby boy is gaining nearly four pounds per day, weighing in at 190 pounds now.

Yes, you read that right: a 190 pound 3-week-old.

A fully grown greater one-horned rhino clocks in at a whopping 4,000 to 5,000 pounds. Could you imagine how much he'll eat!

Baby No Name's relatives used to be widespread in Southeast Asia, but are only found in India and Nepal now. The International Union for Conservation of Nature calls the species endangered due to the threat of poaching and illegal use of their horns.

It's estimated that baby rhino only has 3,250 relatives left in the world and one dies of poaching every eight hours. This little guy, though, is the 68th greater one-horned rhino to be born at the Safari Park since 1975. For that reason, they're the "foremost breeding facility in the world for this species," the zoo said.

Baby rhino can have visitors at the animal care center nursery corral during his daily exercise time, between 12:15 and 12:45 p.m., as long as the weather permits. And seriously, who can resist? Everyone loves a new baby.

Photo Credit: San Diego Zoo Safari Park
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<![CDATA[76 E Open After Overturned Big Rig Blocked Traffic]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 11:52:54 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/219*120/big+rig+oceanside.jpg

State Route 76 East has been cleared and all lanes are open after a UPS big rig crash and rolled onto its side early Thursday in Oceanside.

Both eastbound lanes were closed as officials worked more than 7 hours this morning to clear the road and pull the overturned truck back upright.

The crash happened around 3:30 a.m. when the driver of the truck said he was exiting Interstate 5 and onto the 76 East to refuel. He started to slide, he said, before he lost control and the truck flipped onto its side.

There were no injuries and two California Highway Patrol officers pulled the driver out of the truck after the crash.

The truck was carrying UPS freight and packages. Davis Trucking Company took the packages out of the truck and put them into another truck to send off for shipping.